Your system is perfectly designed to give you the results you're getting.
That statement by W. Edwards Deming underscores why so many problem-solving efforts fail to achieve their intended objectives. No problems stand alone. The interconnectedness of human relationships, organizations, markets, supply chains, etc. make it impossible to approach any problem as an isolated event, independent of a larger system.
Our English word "system" comes from two root concepts - to combine and to cause to stand, resulting in a term that refers to "a regularly interacting or interdependent group of items forming a unified whole" (Webster's New Collegiate Distionary). Thomas Merton's idea that no man (or organization) is an island extends far beyond the philosophical and theological discussion of his book by that title. Nothing is completely independent.
When revenue drops in a company, management often looks first to the sales organization for answers. Obviously, more people buying a product or service results in more revenue for the company. But failing to look at the entire revenue-generation system could result in a lot of blame and problem correction going to the wrong place. While money invested in better recruiting, more robust training, and a new method for managing the sales process will provide marginal improvement, those remedies may not address the heart of the issue.
Revenue in any organization is dependent on a system that includes
- Closed sales
- An effective sales process
- A pipeline of qualified prospects
- An adequate number of qualified leads
- Effective marketing that attracts qualified prospects
When this system is viewed as a whole entity (and looked at in relation to all the other systems in an organization) it becomes apparent that lagging revenue may have a root cause far from the point where a customer makes a buying decision or where a salesperson helps the prospect evaluate the value of a product or service. Sales growth is dependent on a pipeline of qualified prospects. A sales pipeline develops from an adequate number of qualified leads. Those potential clients are generally reached through some type of marketing.
Peter Senge points out that the "invisible fabrics or interrelated actions" present in businesses "often take years to fully play out their effects on each other" (The Fifth Discipline, pages 6-7). A lag in sales this year may be the result of inadequate investments in marketing during previous years. The push for profits one year can precipitate a drop in revenue the next. Companies that fail to look at the long-term, systemic impact of their decisions are doomed to an endless cycle of cause analysis, problem solving, and looking for new solutions when the bigger problem is a system that is not designed to produce the desired result.
If you don't like your results, don't focus on isolated events--look at the entire system. The cause of your problem may lie far from your point of immediate pain.